After Chad Taylor (D) ended his U.S. Senate campaign in Kansas, no one could say with certainty exactly what would happen to the overall dynamic. It looked like bad news for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who benefited from his opponents split between Taylor and Independent Greg Orman, but we'd need to see more data.
And now that data is coming in.
The first poll, taken shortly after Taylor's announcement, was a SurveyUSA poll commissioned by local station KSN-TV, and it showed Orman up by one over Roberts, 37% to 36%. This was obviously cause for alarm in Republican circles, but a one-point margin is hardly grounds for panic.
Independent Greg Orman leads Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Ks.), 41 percent to 34 percent, according to a poll released to HuffPost by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. Six percent said they'd still vote for Democrat Chad Taylor, who has announced he's leaving the race, but whose name may remain on the ballot pending a lawsuit being heard Tuesday. Another 4 percent opted for libertarian Randall Batson, with the remaining 15 percent undecided.
The PPP results find Roberts deeply unpopular, with a -17 net job approval rating among all voters, and only modestly positive numbers even among his Republican base. Orman, in contrast, has a +18 net favorable rating, with Democrats and independents giving him even stronger ratings, and Republicans about evenly split.
A seven-point lead is not insurmountable -- and this is obviously just one poll -- but there is no good news here for Republicans. Roberts is unpopular; Orman is popular. Roberts trails by seven, and that's with the Democrat still getting 6 percent despite no longer running. Those voters are likely to keep shifting to Orman, especially as Taylor fights to get his name off the ballot.
Of course, Roberts isn't done yet. The senator has returned to the state he represents -- a novel idea, to be sure -- and Beltway Republicans have dispatched experienced operatives to try and save his career.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had a plan: win a second term, take advantage of a good year for Republicans, and soon after prepare for a national campaign. The plan is looking a little shaky right now, with polls show him in the midst of a very competitive re-election campaign against Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke.
A month ago, the Republican incumbent and his allies tried moving to the left, blasting Burke as an "outsourcing one-percenter."
That didn't do much to improve Walker's standing, so the governor is now moving back to the right, promising big tax cuts and drug testing for those receiving public aid in a second term.
With less than two months to go in a tight re-election race, the Republican governor put forward a 62-page plan that sums up the actions of his first term, defends them against the critique of his Democratic rival, former Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke, and offers several new proposals.
"It's our next wave of the Wisconsin comeback. It's our plan to make sure that everyone who wants a job can find a job," Walker said in a telephone interview.
As a rule, when an incumbent is still scrambling seven weeks before Election Day, looking for a platform while struggling to defend his record, it's not a good sign.
Walker, referencing a one-page summary of his agenda, told the AP, "That's our plan of action for the next four years. Tear it off. Hang it up. Put it next to your computer. Put it on your fridge."
Part of the trouble is, Walker used similar rhetoric four years ago, when he promised Wisconsin he'd create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of his first term -- and said he should be judged according to that standard. Nearly four years later, the governor is less than halfway to his goal, and has yet to explain why he couldn't keep his highest-profile promise.
But even putting that aside, the two key tenets of the Republican's new agenda -- tax cuts and drug testing -- probably polled well, but they each come with one big flaw.
Islamic State is not just a roving band of lunatics; it strives to be a relatively well organized band of lunatics. When it controls an area, the terrorist group's leaders try to collect taxes and create some semblance of local civic administration, including directing traffic.
In other words, ISIS, when it's not indiscriminately killing people, has governing ambitions.
And to that end, the Associated Press reported yesterday on ISIS terrorists taking a keen interest in the curricula of schools in Mosul.
The extremist-held Iraqi city of Mosul is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music. Classes about history, literature and Christianity have been "permanently annulled."
The Islamic State group has declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered that certain pictures be torn out of textbooks.
This is not the first time. In parts of Syria under ISIS control, the group has banned philosophy and chemistry.
In Mosul, ISIS issued a statement nearly two weeks ago, declaring "good news of the establishment of the Islamic State Education Diwan by the caliph who seeks to eliminate ignorance, to spread religious sciences and to fight the decayed curriculum."
The AP report added that Islamic State explicitly prohibits lessons on "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution."
As it turns out, Iraqi schools weren't teaching evolution anyway, but in the name of "eliminating ignorance," ISIS wants to be absolutely certain that modern biology is banned from science classes. The violent extremists prefer "religious sciences."
Senate Democrats have brought up the Paycheck Fairness Act three times over three Congresses. In each instance, the Senate Republican minority killed the proposal, though last week offered a little something different.
Last Wednesday, on a procedural vote to advance a debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, 19 Senate Republicans broke ranks and voted to end their party's filibuster, which is 19 more GOP votes than the Paycheck Fairness Act has ever received. A sign of possible progress?
Apparently not. As msnbc's Irin Carmon reported last night:
Senate Republicans did it again: They blocked a measure backed by President Barack Obama that would have strengthened equal pay protections for women. Counting procedural votes, it's the fourth time Republicans have voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act since 2012.
The only surprise was that they gave Democrats the political fodder of allowing another vote to proceed on the bill -- and that the GOP did so in a midterm election year when women voters are one major key to obtaining and retaining control of the Senate and House.
The final roll call is online here. Note that while 19 Senate Republicans voted with Democrats on a procedural step last week, literally zero GOP senators supported the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday afternoon.
The apparent contradiction is easy to explain: Republicans voted to extend debate on the bill last week, not because they supported it, but because they were trying to waste time, eating up the clock on the Senate's limited pre-election schedule. If the GOP had killed the measure quickly, it would have meant moving on to something else Republicans don't like, so they dragged out the fight on the Paycheck Fairness Act, simply because they could.
Andrew Bacevich, retired U.S. Army colonel, professor, and historian, talks with Rachel Maddow about why war in America's only answer to problems in the Middle East and what other means of addressing the region are needed. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the possibility of a new trend in U.S. elections this year (including Alaska, Kansas, and maybe soon Maine) in which Democrats and Independents in three-way races unite against the Republican candidate to ensure Republican defeat. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the litany of football players facing abuse accusations, charges, or convictions and the confusing mix of penalties faced, and the clumsy stumbling of NFL coaches and officials. watch
Rachel Maddow reports on the publication by USA Today of the U.S. Senate handbook, full of the bureaucratic rules that keep the Senate running, from where to acquire office plants to how to select telephone on-hold music. watch
Shira Springer, sports enterprise reporter for the Boston Globe, talks with Rachel Maddow about the difficulty NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is having producing an acceptable response to the abuse scandals that plague his league. watch